Delaware School Boards group takes issue with letter to Biden

Association says it wasn’t consulted, balks at protests labeled ‘hate crimes’

By Tim Mastro
Posted 10/14/21

DOVER — The Delaware School Boards Association said its national headquarters did not consult it before sending a Sept. 29 letter to President Joe Biden seeking federal assistance regarding …

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Delaware School Boards group takes issue with letter to Biden

Association says it wasn’t consulted, balks at protests labeled ‘hate crimes’

Posted

DOVER — The Delaware School Boards Association said its national headquarters did not consult it before sending a Sept. 29 letter to President Joe Biden seeking federal assistance regarding protests that have taken place at school board meetings across the country.

The National School Boards Association’s letter led to the U.S. Department of Justice announcing it would collaborate with federal, state and local officials to investigate threatening incidents at school board meetings throughout the country.

“The letter indicated that it was on behalf of the member state associations, school board members and local public school districts, however, the Delaware School Boards Association was not consulted prior to the release of this letter, nor do we agree with the letter,” said DSBA executive director John Marinucci in a statement issued on Thursday. “The comments and representations contained within the letter do not reflect the position of our organization.”

Mr. Marinucci specifically took issue with the NSBA likening the school board protests to “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”

“Delaware School Boards Association disagrees with this characterization of the protests and protesters,” he said. “While we agree that order must be maintained and that the safety of board members, staff, families and community members must be top priority at school board meetings, at the same time, we believe that free speech and the ability of community members to address their locally elected school board members are essential to successful school board governance.”

The DSBA is an advocacy nonprofit 501c4 and represents 18 of the 19 traditional school districts in Delaware. (The Delmar district is not part of the group.) Mr. Marinucci said the statement released Thursday was vetted through the presidents of the DSBA’s member school boards prior to being released.

Numerous Delaware school board meetings turned contentious in August as some parents protested Gov. John Carney’s executive order to require masks in schools in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Cape Henlopen voted to adjourn an August meeting due to “the temperament of the crowd” after board members were cursed at and threatened. Milford and Caesar Rodney boards each had to take a recess during their August meetings due to protesters present, but both meetings were able to be completed.

Upstate, the Brandywine board of education also ended a meeting early due to the protests while Red Clay Consolidated School District’s August meeting was constantly interrupted by crowd members chanting at the board.

Since then, however, no September or October school board meetings were forced into recesses or postponed due to crowd control issues.

While the National School Boards Association’s letter noted examples of protests in many states, including an individual arrested in Virginia, an arrest for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct in Illinois and a Nazi salute in Michigan — among others, it did not specifically mention Delaware.

“In New Jersey, Ohio, and other states, anti-mask proponents are inciting chaos during board meetings. In other states including Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Tennessee, school boards have been confronted by angry mobs and forced to end meetings abruptly,” the letter stated.

Mr. Marinucci said, “The bottom line is that the public education system in Delaware is established on the fundamental principle of local authority.”

“The ability for parents and members of the local community to address their school board is a fundamental aspect of local authority. The Delaware School Boards Association asserts that having a large number of attendees exercising their right to speak to the board is a good thing. We continue to provide guidance to Delaware school boards on how they can help ensure their meetings run smoothly, even when there are contentious issues on the agenda.”